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We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that, among these, are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; and, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it. -July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence

 

Home arrow Blog arrow September 2009 arrow September 23, 2009

September 23, 2009
September 23, 2009: Obama, an Israeli, a Rabbi, Arabs, People of Conscience and Faith and 
 I feel a change coming on
Well I'm looking the world over
Looking far off into the East
I feel a change coming on
We got so much in common
We strive for the same old ends
And I just can't wait
Wait for us to become friends
I feel a change coming on
Some people they tell me
I got the blood of the Lamb in my voice
I feel a change coming on-
Bob Dylan, Together Through Life, 2009

I have no illusions/delusions that the Change will come from politicians; it will come about from grassroots activism and through people of prayer.

Rev. Martin Luther King united people of faith and those with none over the issue of basic human rights and there is "Nothing in all the world more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity...The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy....History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."- Martin Luther King Jr




Transcript: President Obama Delivers Remarks Before  Meeting on Israeli-Palestinian Peace

 
SPEAKER: PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

OBAMA: I have just concluded frank and productive bilateral meetings with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. I want to thank them both for appearing here today. I'm now looking forward to this opportunity to hold the first meeting among the three of us since we took office.

As I said throughout my campaign and at the beginning of my administration, the United States is committed to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. That includes a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that results in two states -- Israel and Palestine -- in which both the Israeli people and the Palestinian people can live in peace and security and realize their aspirations for a better life for their children.

That is why my secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and my special envoy, George Mitchell, have worked tirelessly to create the context for permanent status negotiations. And we have made progress since I took office in January and since Israelis -- Israel's government took office in April, but we still have much further to go.

Palestinians have strengthened their efforts on security, but they need to do more to stop incitement and to move forward with negotiations. Israelis have facilitated greater freedom of movement for the Palestinians and have discussed important steps to restrain settlement activity, but they need to translate these discussions into real action on this and other issues. And it remains important for the Arab states to take concrete steps to promote peace.


Simply put, it is past time to talk about starting negotiations. It is time to move forward. It is time to show the flexibility and common sense and sense of compromise that's necessary to achieve our goals. Permanent status negotiations must begin and begin soon. And more importantly, we must give those negotiations the opportunity to succeed.

And so my message to these two leaders is clear: Despite all the obstacles, despite all the history, despite all the mistrust, we have to find a way forward. We have to summon the will to break the deadlock that has trapped generations of Israelis and Palestinians in an endless cycle of conflict and suffering. We cannot continue the same pattern of taking tentative steps forward and then stepping back.

Success depends on all sides acting with a sense of urgency. And that is why I've asked Secretary Clinton and Senator Mitchell to carry forward the work that we do here today.

Senator Mitchell will meet with the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators next week. I've asked the prime minister and the president to continue these intensive discussions by sending their teams back to Washington next week. And I've asked the secretary of state to report to me on the status of these negotiations in mid- October.

All of us know this will not be easy, but we are here today because it is the right thing to do. I look forward to speaking with my colleagues. I'm committed to pressing ahead in the weeks and months and years to come, because it is absolutely critical that we get this issue resolved. It's not just critical for the Israelis and the Palestinians; it's critical for the world. It is in the interests of the United States. And we are going to work as hard as necessary to accomplish our goals.

Thanks.

END
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/22/AR2009092201872.html


After the summit : What we can understand from what happened in NY

Gershon Baskin
September 23, 2009

The Obama-Netanyahu-Abbas summit was a disappointment mainly because of the (perhaps not reasonably) high expectations that much of the world has held for the new US Administration (including me).

 
It appears (at least until now) that the nature of the policy of the Obama administration will not be a radical shift from what we had seen until now. The emphasis will be on direct bilateral negotiations.  The assumption is that Senator Mitchell will be at the table, although that has not been stated explicitly. This assumption is drawn from Mitchell’s role in the Northern Ireland process.

 
The US’s emphasis in the negotiations will be to complete a permanent status Israeli-Palestinian agreement on all outstanding issues. There is no indication, until now, that a time table is being set for those negotiations, although President Obama and Senator Mitchell have both indicated that they will not be open-ended. 


Both President Obama and Senator Mitchell indicated that the renewed peace process would be comprehensive and would seek to bring about agreements between Israel and Syria and Israel and Lebanon as well as encouraging Arab states to take confidence building steps towards greater normalization with Israel.


President Obama has indicated a sense of urgency and determination, but this has been expressed only in the tone of his voice and not in any explicit “tools” that will be used by the US to push the parties to make important and difficult decisions.

The terminology used to describe Israeli obligations has been changed by President Obama from “a total freeze on settlement building” to “refraining from settlement building”.  Furthermore, what was seen as a pre-condition for negotiations is now being termed (by Mitchell) as a factor that will contribute to the success of the negotiations.  Likewise, it is interesting to note that President Obama spoke about mutual recognition of the Israeli people and the Palestinian people (he did not mention the Jewish people or State or the State of the Jewish people).


The President and Senator Mitchell refrained from setting a date for renewing negotiations.  It is yet to be determined if President Abbas will authorize the launching of negotiations without a settlement freeze. President Obama announced that the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators would meet next week in Washington and that Senator Mitchell is immediately coming back to the region.  Saeb Arikat, the Chief Palestinian negotiator was quoted this morning as saying that the negotiations would not be renewed until Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to a withdrawal to the June 4 1967 borders. (Is this a new pre-condition for negotiations?)


What is completely lacking from the process, based on what we know, is a time line for negotiations, the link between a time line and performance, mechanisms for monitoring and reporting on implementation, the role of the mediator at the table, a commitment to third party presence on the ground to supervise Israeli withdrawals and security guarantees for both sides, the role of the other quartet partners (the EU, Russia and the UN), and what happens when and if the process stalls or fails to reach agreements.


What next?


What is necessary is for the US to prepare a “diplomatic tool box” of very big “carrots and sticks” and to let the parties know how and when those tools will be used.  There has to be a price tag to the process – both for success and for failure, stalling and spoiling the process.  The chances of success without the above elements that are missing now from the process (or at least from public knowledge) are very small.  The chances of success even with the above might be small as well, but with them the chances are increased.


In my assessment, the current government of Israel will be incapable of making any substantive decisions that are fundamental to making peace with any of Israel’s neighbors (with which there is no peace).  What that means is that if President Obama is really sincere about his determination to end the conflict in two years, a real peace process will either bring about a fall of the current ruling Israeli coalition – meaning new elections, or that the nature of the current government would have to change (Kadima to join, and the rejectionists to leave). 

 
Both sides will face the huge challenge of generating public support for making hard decisions. The Israeli public has already bought the notion that Palestinian economic development, even more freedom of movement and access, is an Israeli interest.  At the same time, the Israeli Government is working overtime to sell to the public that freezing settlement building weakens Israel’s hand in the negotiations. Palestinians will have to do work with their public mainly on the consequences of peace regarding the non-implementation of the right of return. Both sides need to get out of the “zero-sum” mode of expression that what is good for other side has to be bad for me.

 
In summation, the US must sharpen and define its “diplomatic-negotiating tool-box” and let both sides know the consequences of failure – at least in terms of the United States’ relations with them.  Peace must pay and failure to make peace must have a price tag.

Gershon Baskin is the Co-CEO of IPCRI, the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information




Subject: A letter to Judge Goldstone from Rabbi Everett Gendler, Emeritus, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA
   
16 September 2009

Dear Judge Goldstone,

    

                As the traditional Days of Awe approach, with their central theme of Divine Judgment, I feel the need to thank you personally for your profound contribution to the significance of these Holy Days this particular year.  I refer, of course, to the release of the Report on Gaza by the United Nations Human Rights Commission that you so bravely chaired. .

              

                Your willingness to accept the position was itself a tribute to your dedication to discovering the fullness of truth and justice, whatever the price and the penalties might be for a diligent search.  The unwarranted personal attacks that you now endure are, I am sure, no surprise to you.   All the more reason for the enormous respect that many of us accord you.

    

                I do not mean to suggest an inflated status for you, but with all due diffidence, perhaps you will find some companionship and some consolation in Isaiah’s description of the Servant of God and the sufferings consequent to his assumption of this responsibility. Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-9, 52:13-53:12 are the verses traditionally regarded as  the Four Servant Songs; they describe the contumely, but also the vindication.

    

                More in the spirit of the coming Holy Days, however, is the classic Rabbinic teaching about the significance of the ” judge who judges a true judgment in its full truth---kol  da-yan  she-dan  din  e-met  la-a-mi-to”:

                “Every judge who judges a true judgment in its full truth, even for a single hour,

                  Scripture regards him as if he had become a partner with God in the work of Creation.”

                                                                                                    ---Talmud Shabbat 10a

    Your embodiment of such a judge, and your example of such judging, will inspire many of us during our Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur prayers.  And we will be reassured, also, and relieved to know that in our time, as throughout the long history of the human striving for greater truth and justice, there are those who are genuine partners with the Divine in sustaining the work of Creation.

    

  With all good wishes to you and yours for a Shana  tova  u-m’tukah,  a Good and a Sweet Year, I am

    Most sincerely yours,

    Rabbi Everett Gendler






Ethnic and Religious Leaders Join Together to Support Middle East Peace


WASHINGTON - September 22, 2009 - Leaders of the Arab American Institute joined over 30 ethnic and religious leaders to support Obama's determined efforts to achieve Middle East Peace. 

The group issued a statement today, "Letter in Support of a Comprehensive Middle East Peace: An American National Interest Imperative". It recognizes the urgency of achieving Middle East peace, but notes the difficulties in realizing that goal, absent U.S. leadership:

    "The Israelis and Palestinians, however, have not - on their own - been able to reach agreement. After nearly two decades of negotiations, we believe bold American leadership can help Israelis and Palestinians make the difficult decisions necessary to achieve lasting peace and hold the parties to account should they fail to honor their commitments."

 "Disappointed though we are in the difficulties encountered to date, we are nonetheless pledging to remain involved and supportive of continued, balanced U.S. engagement," says Dr. James Zogby, president of AAI.  "We will not undo, in a few months, the damage of years of either unbalanced or neglectful policy. We are urging the Administration to stay on course."

 AAI Chair George R. Salem, former Solicitor of the U.S. Department of Labor during the second Reagan administration, also lends his support on behalf of the Institute to this broad coalition.


A copy of the letter, with the list of signatories, is copied below:

Letter in Support of a Comprehensive Middle East Peace: An American National Interest Imperative

We come from varied ethnic backgrounds and religious faiths that are diverse.   We are Democrats and Republicans.  We are veterans of war and of the struggle for peace.  Together, we are all Americans.

We find common cause in supporting strong U.S. leadership to achieve a negotiated, sustainable resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - a fundamental American interest that crosses racial, ethnic and religious lines.

We support President Obama's determination to provide sustained, hands-on diplomatic leadership to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end through the creation of two viable, secure and independent states living side by side in peace and security.

The President has made resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top priority since his very first day in office, and we commend his leadership.  We applaud the vision the President has laid out for peace in the Middle East and the challenge he has laid down to all of us to help work for peace and a more positive future for the people of the region and the world.  

This is a moment of great opportunity and urgency.  After decades of tragic conflict, many Israelis and Palestinians despair of the possibility of peace.  While the international community and majorities of the Israeli and Palestinian people are committed to a two-state solution as the best option for achieving peace and security, the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

We express our support for U.S. leadership to chart a path to a better future and to the following principles:

    * We support both Israel's right to exist in security and the right of the Palestinian people to a viable, sovereign and secure state of their own.

    * A peace agreement will need to fulfill UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and resolve critical issues of importance to the parties including refugees, borders, Jerusalem, settlements, and security.

    * The Israelis and Palestinians, however, have not - on their own - been able to reach agreement. After nearly two decades of negotiations, we believe bold American leadership can help Israelis and Palestinians make the difficult decisions necessary to achieve lasting peace and hold the parties to account should they fail to honor their commitments.

    * We support the sense of real urgency that the President brings to the issue and his determination to reach a negotiated resolution to the conflict during his first term in office.

    * At the appropriate time, we will support the Administration if it decides to present proposals for a just and equitable solution that provides dignity, security and sovereignty for both peoples.

    * Finally, we believe a peace agreement should be comprehensive - encompassing Syria and Lebanon as well as normalization of relations between Israel and the countries of the Arab world. We support the idea of a comprehensive regional peace that builds on the Arab Peace Initiative, with its offer of recognition and normalization of relations between Israel and all Arab nations in exchange for resolution of all outstanding issues.

Both sides must take steps to move the process forward, and we support the President's efforts to end Israeli settlement growth and to halt Palestinian violence and incitement. It is now time to move to the next stage of diplomacy and to address the tough issues that must be resolved to bring this conflict to an end.

There are many who will attempt to block the path to peace.  They may believe that the status quo favors their interests or that time is on their side.  The President should know that we understand the status quo is unsustainable and time is of the essence.  We will stand with him as he promotes a fair and just resolution to this long-standing conflict and asks all parties to make the difficult but ultimately necessary compromises for peace.

We pledge to work with the President, to forge the path to peace and security for the Middle East.  We also pledge to work with those in both societies who seek peace, justice, and security, and to stand up for those who hope for a better future for themselves and for the generations that follow.  

Sincerely,

Frank Anderson
Former Chief, Southeast Asian Division, CIA
President, Middle East Policy Council

Dr. Ziad Asali
President, American Task Force on Palestine

Robert Barkin
President; Jewish Reconstructionist Federation

Jeremy Ben-Ami
Executive Director, J Street

Ambassador Warren Clark
Executive Director, Churches for Middle East Peace

Debra DeLee
President, Americans for Peace Now

The Rev. Mark Hanson
Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
President, Lutheran World Federation

Father Theodore Hesburgh
President Emeritus, Notre Dame University

The Most Rev. Howard J. Hubbard   
Bishop of Albany
Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Dr. Joel C. Hunter
Senior Pastor, Northland Church
Member, Executive Committee of the National Association of Evangelicals

Rev. Bill Hybels
Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church

Lynne Hybels
Advocate for Global Engagement, Willow Creek Community Church

Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon
General Secretary, National Council of Churches

Rabbi Peter Knobel
Former President, Central Conference of American Rabbis

Rabbi Charles Kroloff
Former President, Central Conference of American Rabbis

Imam Mohamed Magid
Imam and Executive Director, All Dulles Area Muslim Society, ADAMS Center, in Sterling, Virginia

Salam Al-Marayati
Executive Director, Muslim Public Affairs Council

Rev. John McCullough
Executive Director and CEO, Church World Service

Rev. Peter Morales
President, United Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick
Archbishop Emeritus of Washington

David Neff
Editor in Chief, Christianity Today

Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (USA)

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
Imam of Masjid al-Farah, New York City

Dr. Bob Roberts, Jr.
Senior Pastor, NorthWood Church, Dallas, TX

Hon. George R. Salem, Esq.
Chairman, Arab-American Institute
Strategic Advisor, DLA Piper LLP

Roland Santiago
Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee


The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church

Ron Sider
President, Evangelicals for Social Action

Rev. John Thomas
General Minister and President, United Church of Christ

Dr. James Zogby
President, Arab American Institute



 
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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

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